By Ryan Gillham
Durham Wildcats suffered a 91-76 defeat against Surrey Heat at the Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre.
Durham were missing two key players going into the game, which handed team debut’s to local boys Tom Noble and Alex Riley. The Wildcats were missing big man Andrew Keister to a sickness bug and guard Paul Elderkin due to Viral Meningitis which could keep both players out for a few weeks.
Surrey opened the scoring by a Cricelli lay-up to create a four point lead but it was to be short lived with some instinctive play by the Wildcats and captain Ralph Bucci leading his team by example to score six points in quick succession and a Baldarelli three giving Durham a five point lead at 11-6.
The momentum stayed with the Wildcats for the rest of the quarter when Mike Baldarelli was fouled behind the three-point line and converted all three free throw shots to end the quarter at 21-14.
The Heat made an early comeback to start the second, bringing the score back to within two points, but the Wildcats stepped up the intensity once again to free themselves from their visitors to open up a 7seven point lead at 33-26.
Some smart play by Surrey once again closed the gap with Cricelli and Margai at the forefront of the action as the score stood 33-32. Baldarelli confirmed the Wildcats lead going into the half with a three pointer buzzer beater as the score board showed 42-38.
It was a tied ball game early on in the third as the Heat came out on fire with early points coming from Cricelli and Holmes at 42-42.
Surrey finally took the lead two minutes in when Brad Guinane forced a turnover handing the Heat guard Margai an easy lay-up at 42-44.
Surrey were in control after taking the lead dictating the pace of the game and finding their range from behind the three point line giving them a comfortable eight point lead with two minutes left on the clock at 54-62.
Some great ball movement by the Heat gave them a clear advantage and opening up their lead to 58-66 at the end of the third.
Cricelli handed the Heat a 10-point lead to start the final stanza with a great post move to make it 58-68.
Surrey went into lockdown defence as Durham failed to convert on offence which helped the Heat gain their biggest lead of the game at 68-82 with four minutes remaining.
The Wildcats tried to shorten the deficit but their efforts couldn’t bring them back into the game as the Heat with their clock control, saw the game out.
M.V.P – Ralph Bucci, his impressive display on defence and high score count gave the Wildcats hope despite falling short in the final quarter.
Durham Wildcats – Ralph Bucci 26 points, Mike Baldarelli 24 points, Keith Page 17 points.
Surrey Heat – Charvis Holmes 22 points, Samuel Cricelli 18 points, Travis Holmes 16 points.